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Does social pressure make us fat?

Scientists recently learned there is a form of social pressure that promotes obesity. If your friends and family gain weight, you have a great risk of putting on some pounds too. This is especially true with friends and siblings who are the same gender as you.

If you are a woman and your sister becomes obese, you have a 67 percent chance of getting fat too.


This is true even if she lives in another town and you seldom see her.


Does our awareness that close friends are overweight give us "permission" to gain weight too?

Or do we gain weight in unconscious empathy with them? No one knows.
There are other types of social pressure that are more obvious. Many people feel these pressures when they start to follow a vegan diet.


Peers, family, and co-workers


Social pressure hits us from a few different sources:
  1. Peer pressure, which comes from friends of our own age and socio-economic level. Even teenagers know about peer pressure.

  2. Family pressure, from family members of all ages.

  3. Corporate culture, which our work environment imposes on us.
 
When you became a vegan, did your friends, workmates and family members support you? Or did they challenge you? Some people don't want us to change. It is easier for them if we remain overweight. They want us to go to restaurants with them. They want us to share family dinners. And when we start losing weight, they may feel threatened.


Becoming a vegan


Scientific studies show that a vegan diet is ideal for weight loss and good health. People often decide to go vegan after reading books or watching videos on the subject. The information about weight loss, health, the animals, and the environment is compelling. Once people know the facts, they want to tell everyone.

They often are stunned to discover that their friends and family are not interested. Some people even have a negative perception of vegans and vegetarians. Vegans are a counter-cultural group. Our beliefs and dietary choices go against societal norms. It is human nature to be uncomfortable with people who don't seem to belong in the group.


Social pressure on vegans


If you are a new vegan, negative peer pressure might tempt you to withdraw from social activities. Don't isolate yourself. Engage other people in conversation about diet and other topics. Listen to what they say with an open mind and try to identify with them. Most of us were not raised as vegans and can remember our meat-eating days.

If you are already a committed vegan and you are modifying your diet to lose weight, you might feel a little social pressure from your family. When you start to avoid processed foods and eat more simply, your life will change. It means fewer restaurant meals. It means cooking at home more often. Potlucks with vegan pals can make this transition easier.

It is easier to be a vegan when you have vegan friends. One way to nudge people in that direction is to give them information in the right form. Give them a taste of some healthy vegan food, and then provide the recipe. Tell them about a new product or send them a link to an interesting website.

When someone asks you a question about your diet, keep your answer short and cheerful. Don't try to tell them everything you know. And always remember the quote by Albert Einstein: "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means."

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